This dissertation rethinks the importance of the gift for Romantic and Post-Romantic period poetry. I argue that, confronting calls for economic justification and the equally limiting consequences of utilitarianism and Kantian aesthetics, writers such as Shelley, Thoreau and Baudelaire turned to the gift as an alternative means of accounting for poetry's relevance. Because the gift is not a commodity, yet, by definition gives, contributing in the world, it supplies the possibility of imagining a role for poetry that is neither strictly economistic, nor outside history.
In chapter 1, "Shelley and the Gift of the Name," I examine Shelley's "Hymn to Intellectual Beauty" and show how the poet there understands his poetic vocation to be grounded in a denial of the divine gift of the name of God. The situation of the poet as a language-bearer and name-giver is determined by his lack, which he responds to by naming in his turn. In chapter 2, "The Gift of Poetry in Thoreau's Walden," I examine Thoreau's failed purchase of the Hollowell farm in the second chapter of Walden and show how he develops there a notion of poetry predicated on a gift that exceeds the circuit of economic exchange. In chapter 3, "Donner le souvenir: The Gift of Memory in Baudelaire," I read Baudelaire's "Morale du joujou" in order to show how the problem of the gift intersects with those of memory and aesthetics for Baudelaire through the figure of the "souvenir." In the second half of chapter 3 I examine how the figure of the collector in Benjamin's middle and late writings revolves around the figure of the Andenken, which I argue should be read as the translation of the Baudelairian "souvenir." Chapter 4, "Baudelaire and the Gift of Fate," examines how the problems of fate and chance are taken up in Baudelaire's prose poem, "The Gifts of the Fairies." In a return to the motif of divinity that marked Shelley's "Hymn" in chapter one, chapter four shows how the presence of the gods in Baudelaire is marked by a fallenness and susceptibility to time usually relegated only to mortals.
Table of Contents
Table of Contents
The Gift of Poetry
Chapter One 13
Shelley and the Gift of the Name
Chapter Two 41
The Gift of Poetry in Thoreau's Walden
Chapter Three 69
Donner le souvenir: The Gift of Memory in Baudelaire
Chapter Four 101
Baudelaire and the Gift of Fate
About this Dissertation
|Committee Chair / Thesis Advisor|
|File download under embargo until 01 June 2020||2018-08-28||File download under embargo until 01 June 2020|